Mountaineers host Illinois State today
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Waiting for him will also be one of the top quarterbacks in the division.
Matt Brown leads the Redbirds into the second-round game as the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. Brown completed 225-of-359 passes for 2,676 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.
He has Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore’s attention.
“He’s a terrific leader,” Moore said. “What I know comes from other coaches and from media people. Obviously I’m very impressed with him.
Illinois State coach Brock Spack has similar praise for Jackson, who completed 235-of-361 passes for 2,905 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Jackson, the first-team All-SoCon quarterback, is also a threat to run the ball despite a sore knee he injured against Western Carolina on Oct. 27.
“He’s the best quarterback we’ve seen all year,” Spack said. “No doubt, especially with the combination of his speed and his arm strength.”
Jackson and his offensive line will have their hands full with an Illinois State defense that racked up 34 sacks, which was second in the MVFC by one to Southern Illinois. Defensive end Colton Underwood led the conference with 9.5 sacks this season.
He had a chance to play at Wisconsin, but Spack said the 6-foot-4, 255-pound junior honored his commitment to Illinois State.
“His dad played here and his mom played volleyball here,” Spack said. “His motor is very high. His motor probably makes him look faster than he really is. He is everything you look for in a college football player.”
Appalachian State running back Steven Miller will also have to find a way to get past Underwood. Miller led the Mountaineers with 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing this season.
In Appalachian State’s 34-12 loss to Maine in the 2011 playoffs, Miller was limited to just three yards rushing. The Mountaineers were also held to three overall yards rushing by the Black Bears.
“That’s always been a burden on my back,” Miller said. “I’m not pressured by it or anything, but I understand last year didn’t go as well as I wanted it to be. I feel confident in my offensive line and my coaches that this year will be a whole lot different.”
The winner gets the winner of the Eastern Washington-Wagner game.